My experience counts, too- open letter to Naomi Wolf: feminist, @sadydoyle @jaclynf @MMFlint #mooreandme
Dear Naomi Wolf,
I watched the second part of your Dec. 20, 2010 interview on Democracy Now! this evening.
You implied needlessly singularized assertions about rape victims are absolutes based upon your experience. Furthermore, you did so in a way that minimizes and attempts to drape shame over my own experience.
You said, "Never in my 23 years of supporting rape victims, RAPE (your emphasis) [pauses a beat] VICTIMS (your emphasis, again), people who had no ambiguity, who didn't throw parties for their rapists 4 days later, who didn't continue to host... I mean, women who've been raped, in my experience, um, don't want to be around their rapists."
In my experience, there's ambiguity in how you deal with it as it is happening; there's ambiguity about how you deal with it once it's happened; there's ambiguity over how you feel about it, even many years later.
In my experience, you don't necessarily want to be around the person who hurt you, but unfortunately you may be pressured or compelled to in a way you may not control. In my experience, you don't want anyone to think less of you for getting yourself into that situation. In my experience, you act as if everything's fine, so then no one will know what a stupid idiot you are. In my experience you want everything to go back to normal so badly that you pretend it is.
In my experience, none of that made what he did okay or consensual.
So in your eyes was I even a rape victim, let alone a RAPE [pause a beat] VICTIM?
It was voices much like your allegedly feminist one that kept repeating in my head after I was the victim of sexual violence. It's what shamed me into silence and denial.
As a burgeoning teenage feminist, I knew what he did was wrong. But because I shared the belief you lent credence to tonight, I felt that what I did both during and afterward must also be wrong. I didn't react like a feminist was "supposed" to. I didn't behave like a victim was "supposed" to. Mostly I wondered who was going to believe the bad feminist who was "supposed" to know better but got herself into that mess in the first place.
I felt like my wrong reaction and behavior negated my ability to seek justice for the harm he caused. When I hear you, a prominent alleged feminist, authoritatively echo similar thoughts on the record, I begin to regard that assumption as perhaps a sadly accurate assessment.
I have never told my family what happened. I didn't want to disappoint them: in my family disappointment eventually manifests into angry tones and criticism for not being better than you are. It took me nearly ten years to tell my now-husband even a portion of what happened, because I worried he couldn't hear it or handle it well: he had also internalized certain ideas near-identical to those you promulgated tonight.
For all these reasons, I concluded that my aberrant way of coping must be just as blameworthy as what my assaulter did. Possibly more. I still can't quite forgive myself some 15+ years later.
Maybe I should thank you, and Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, et al. It's due to the #mooreandme campaign that I've discovered how many other people out there share my experience as a rape victim and not solely your experience with RAPE [pause a beat] VICTIMS. They also feel what happened to them was actually wrong regardless of their imperfect reactions, too. But I don't think I will be thanking any of you due to your disgraceful words and behavior around this whole Assange issue.
I would, however, like to ask you, Naomi Wolf: feminist, why rape victims deserve scorn and suspicion that your RAPE [pause a beat] VICTIMS don't. How many people will get hurt because you decided to arbitrarily set forth parameters as to how survivors of sexual violence should behave, as if there's appropriate degrees of typicality? Please tell me you misspoke, you didn’t mean to imply anything about experiences which don’t fit into tidy frames, and that my teenage self was mistaken to assume no one would believe me.
- written on Monday 20 December, 2010